Nicci French THE RED ROOM

ISBN 13: 9780718143879

THE RED ROOM

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9780718143879: THE RED ROOM
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Dr. Kit Quin, at the request of the police, does a psychological evaluation of Michael Doll, a disturbed young man seen hanging around primary schools. While in questioning, Doll smashes a mug and tears up Kit's face. Nightmares of a red room afflict Kit during her recovery. In the red room, nightmares become real.

Three months later, the police again ask for Dr. Quin's help. They are questioning Michael Doll in connection with the possible murder of Lianne, a teenage drifter, by the canal where he fishes. Kit doesn't think he's the canal killer and explores a theory of hers with the help of Will Pavic, director of a center for such transients as Lianne. Will had cast off his prosperous yet hollow career in finance to look after London's runaways, the young and the lost. Kit and Will discover the unlikely connection Lianne had with a young theater couple. Meanwhile, Doll is becoming more and more peculiar, and his infatuation with Kit is growing dangerous. As her own terror intensifies, the red room becomes a horrifying reality. Kit confronts the killer in a harrowing encounter of pure evil for the forgotten Lianne.

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Review:

Penzler Pick, August 2001: Already a sensation in England, Nicci French (the pseudonym of a London couple who've turned their marriage into a writing partnership as well) is quickly gaining recognition and fans on this side of the Atlantic, too. French's two previous novels published here, Killing Me Softly and Beneath the Skin, are romantic thrillers with hard edges--a little like a marriage of convenience between Sally Beauman and Ian Rankin.

But The Red Room is a change of pace that is reminiscent of Frances Fyfield, only without her stylistic quirks. It also asks a lot of the reader in imagining the deliberately obtuse or arrogant ways in which the police sometimes interfere in the lives of those not on the public payroll.

In this case, the two people whose lives are being most unfairly manipulated hold opposite, even antagonistic, places in society. One is a clinical psychologist, Katherine Quinn; the other, Michael Doll, is the troubled young man who not long ago left her with terrible facial disfigurement, having suddenly attacked her while undergoing an evaluation in his jail cell. Somehow, out of curiosity, misplaced duty, and a desire to try to "reduce him to his human size," Kit Quinn allows a police detective to talk her into seeing Michael once again. This time her nemesis--about whom she has recurring nightmares of a blood-spattered red room--stands accused of murder. The trouble is, after coming face to face with him, Dr. Quinn isn't at all convinced he's guilty.

Nicci French has better success with the setup of this suspenseful, twisty situation than she does with its resolution. But The Red Room provides superior entertainment, with a complex and all-too-human heroine at the center of its drama. --Otto Penzler

About the Author:

Nicci French lives in Northern England.

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